Using Tarot Cards to Bust Through Writer’s Block
Is Your Story Stalled?
It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a time when writers of all kinds, from pure amateur to published pro, try to write a 50,000+ word novel in a month. It's an exciting and fun time for many people who enjoy writing and love the challenge, but just about now, many people hanging in at this point are getting through what Seasoned NaNo-ers call the ‘second week slump’.
But let’s face it—that slump is something almost everyone who likes to write will face at one point or another—NaNo or not. Sometimes a writer might need some help, and the tarot is a great way to try and glean inspiration and insights into your story and characters.
Here’s how to use tarot cards as a creative tool.
Writer's Block Tarot Readings
Using the tarot for your story is not much different than using it for a regular reading. If you were trying to figure out which path you should take in life, or what to look out for on your path, you'd pull out the tarot. You'd draw a card, or perhaps do a spread of several cards, to get a look at the 'bigger picture' and figure out what you need to do.
It's not much different for when you're using them for a story, except you're going to make that your question.
Spreads are pretty important in a full reading when you're trying to get an overview because they put the cards in some kind of context. Without knowing the position you don't know if a card is revealing the past or future, whether it's issuing a warning or offering advice, whether it's something you're doing or something someone is doing to you, etc. So spreads are useful, kind of like a roadmap.
Below I've offered some story and character-based spreads you can use as an example to help get you started, and one for helping you figure out word count for the day.
The 6 Basic Question Spread for Writers
The first spread might look familiar. You probably recognize it from your school's English class. However, it still is a good way try and learn about a character and their journey through your story.
- Who: This card is representation of your main character, Use this card to help define a few traits they might have and what makes them a person.
- What: What happens to this character? What's going on with them? What do they want? This can be interpreted in a number of ways depending on what you need.
- Where: Where is your character. This can be a location, a state of mind, or where they are in their personal journey to get what they want.
- When: You can use this in a literal way, Use the numbers associated with the card to try and pick a time or something. You can also look at where the card and try to interpret it's placement in the deck as a way of determining how far along they are on their journey.
- Why: Why are they doing this? What is driving your character towards where they are going? Why do think they they need to get something/somewhere/to someone? An alternative reading for this card could be something like why they will succeed or fail in their goals.
- How: How will it work out in the end? How will the character get there or even how did the character become they way they are now. There are a lot of different interpretations for this card as well, just see which 'how' question you need to answer
Artist's Toolbox Tarot Spread
This spread isn't based around your story but around you as the creator. This spread is also not my own creation but rather, my daughter's—she's a professional tarot reader and editor. This spread is great for when you're feeling like you might not make your goals or you need a boost to remind you why you are doing what you're doing.
The box: The base of your toolbox — what you bring to your art that is fundamentally and intrinsically you.
- Flashlight: Your focus.
- Batteries: Your motivation.
- Most-used: Something that you are familiar and skilled with using — a technique, a subject, a medium, whatever it is that you are absolutely comfortable with.
- Recent acquisition: Something that you have recently begun using, or want to begin using, that you should spend more time with.
Two Paths Spread
If you practice tarot, then this spread might look familiar to you. The Two Paths spread is great for trying to help you make a decision when you've reached a fork in the road in your life, or in this case, in your story.
Two paths situational spread:
• Card one: Where your character is right now. This card is for how far the character has come your story can go. What might happen if this is something that keeps going this way.
• Card two: The first option that your character can choose. This card is one way things might progress.
• Card three: The other path. What will happen if someone takes the other choice they can make and how it has left them
Character Development Tarot Spread
This spread is a fun, quick way to help you come up with a character. Maybe you need an antagonist, or perhaps a secondary character. This spread helps you come up with base that you can flesh out and use within your story.
- Motivation: What are the abstract goals of the character? Do they want love? Do they want happiness? Do they want power? Use this card to help you figure that out.
- Goals: This card is about concrete desires. Things like they want to get to a certain place, find a certain thing, meet a person or anything else else that is not an abstract goal.
- Conflict: What is stopping your character from reaching those goals? It can be anything from external influences to internal ones but either way, this card will help you understand what those are.
- Epiphany: This card is about growth and change. After everything's said and done in your story, how will your character be different? Will they be wiser, more bitter? Could they be scared? Happy? Happily in love? This card helps you determine what has changed about your character and how they have grown
Word Count Card Draw
For serious writers who are determined to get a project done, it's important to consider setting up word count goals. This is just a fun spread to help you come up with a number of words to write. If you're having trouble deciding how many words to write one day, or even one weekend, let the tarot guide you.
Pull out a single card from your deck and look at either the number it represents or the place in he deck. Use this to help you figure out how many words you need to write. Add 00 to get the number in hundreds and, if you're super ambitions do 000 and see where you get in the thousands.
I hope these spreads help you in some way and that you have an excellent time writing your story, novel, script or series... whatever you're inspired to do! Happy writing!
What About You?
Do You Use Tarot For Creative Projects or Inspiration?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Mackenzie Sage Wright